Six Things To Carry With You


Whenever I travel I spend the final hours before leaving in a frenzy of charging-up. It seems that travelling light now involves hauling 10 kgs of tech around, and it all has to be filled with ‘the new electricity’, as my great-grandmother called it. Thank god I gave up my car, otherwise I’d be charging that too. By the time I get where I’m going I should be fizzing with errant electricity.

1. A ‘smart’ mask

As opposed to ‘an NHS mask’ which is still the safest, lightest and most practical. Of course I have to own one with silver dragons on it in case anyone invites me to lunch. You can barely breathe through it. A short flight of steps leaves me in danger of passing out.

2. A notebook. I buy one everywhere I go. They’re inexpensive and always different. My Indian notebook is made from recycled elephant dung (actually very elegant). Each one gets used for a particular idea. They are ritually destroyed once I’ve written up the story because I don’t want anyone seeing how rubbish some of my ideas are and finding out that I’ve used the second half of the book for shopping lists and recipes.

3. A pen. Biros and 2HB pencils for notes and a special pen – a Mont Blanc, given to me by The Husband, with brown ink, never blue – that only gets used for signatures. I feel gutted if I go to an event without my special pen and have to borrow one. It’s as much a good luck charm as a tool.

4. Headphones. I’m an aural obsessive because I suffer from tinnitus. Ear pods are great but seem to increase sound damage if I wear them for more than a few minutes. Flat-ear over-the-head earphones are best for travel, and the best I’ve found are Bowers & Wilkins. Great sound quality, comfortable fit. It’s a minor compulsion; I can handle it, although I’m not sure my wallet can.


5. A book. Non-readers and teenagers need to be taught that books calm nerves and totally obliterate panic attacks. Books are a benign drug that can turn you into a lifetime addict. This Andrew Martin novel is a terrific period whodunnit. I’m waiting for a train to turn up (he usually operates in the niche of historical-railway-crime.) For waiting rooms and train journeys I take a Kindle, but they have a short shelf life. The older Kindle models charge badly and behave as erratically as your grandpa used to when he ran out into the street to warn us about the pod-people. I’ve just ordered the newest model as it’s a bona-fide business expense in my job. I expect it to stay in one piece for a few weeks.


6. A spare T-shirt. I’ve lived my life in T-shirts and wear them to death. We don’t need valets to press our trousers anymore. I always admired Charlton Heston in ‘The Omega Man’ because he tore off his shirt and wiped it under his arms before chucking it in the bin. You don’t get women doing that (I don’t think).

Also; Keys. The Husband refuses to take keys anywhere with him so I have to. This compulsion must be connected to the reason why he never shuts doors.

Beyond the items on this list, what’s the item you carry everywhere with you now?

26 comments on “Six Things To Carry With You”

  1. Stu-I-Am says:

    Well, for one thing, I carry cash — just for the pleasure of seeing the dumbfounded look on the face of the Generation Z person serving me when I pull out a note or two and mime being suitably apologetic. I particularly enjoy watching them scurry in panic to find their manager for approval. Small pleasures.

  2. Mike says:

    Thank you for writing about real simple things that have real meaning in your life.
    I can almost step into your shoes…..

  3. BarbaraBoucke says:

    Apparently beetroot sandwiches and boiled sweets aren’t also on the list. Thanks for the book recommendation. Am gping to order it from a UK bookseller on Abe.

  4. Joan says:

    I always have those green organic bags to pick up after my dog, they have gotten in every pocket and often turn up in the washing machine!

  5. Frances says:

    I share your list except for the t-shirt. Ladies my age should not wear t-shirts. If you have ever watched one of those YouTube videos about a “Karen” you will see why this is.

    I would add, unfortunately, pills. Lots of pills. But for items of choice, an old iPod Classic. One of the ones which holds hundreds of pieces of music. I don’t like music on my phone and this offers me music to fit any mood. I haven’t added anything for years but am quite happy with what is on there already.

  6. Stu-I-Am says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I like to have an ample supply of pocket lint — especially for those longer rides on public transport. Discreetly rolling it between thumb and forefinger is less ostentatious than Chinese Baoding balls and certainly less obvious (and less worrying to those nearby — come to think of it) than rosary beads, should that be your persuasion but, with the same relaxing effect. Note: While navel lint may provide the greater guilty pleasure, it probably should be the choice of last resort in a crowded public space. /s

  7. Lorraine says:

    Thanks muchly for another book recommendation!

  8. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I can’t agree with you, Frances, about the T shirts.
    In my lifetime, I have been told that my skirt/ hair was too long or too short, I was wearing too much/ not enough make up, I shouldn’t wear trousers, I’m too old to wear jeans, I should dye my grey hair etc etc.
    If I want to wear T shirts, I will. Nobody has to look if they don’t like it.
    My pockets are currently full of conkers, which my cat regards as a very special toy.

  9. Martin+Tolley says:

    I think I’ve said this afore here – a lemon and a small bottle of EV olive oil. Never leave home without.

  10. Helen+Martin says:

    I’ll remember these recommends for next year when I hope to travel south. In the meantime Andrew Martin in actual book form is a little thin on the ground at our library. The book thing is obvious, really.
    My computer is apparently acting up because the squares above are empty and I had to type the whole entry in order to have this site turn up.
    I read about those elephant dung notebooks and thought that if you weren’t going to burn it, then making notebooks from the material seemed like a good idea.
    I hope you’re going to Barcelona or somewhere equally desirable, Chris.

  11. Peter T says:

    Laptop, external drive with everything from my tower comp, two phones (one for hotspot), penknife (packed appropriately), lenses/glasses/sunglasses, colours (pencil/paint/…), pills, running kit, waterproof, Cristy Gatsby cap, gloves (since COVID), most often gluten-free sandwiches and all the things Mr F has mentioned. I used to carry a very useful little adjustable spanner, but stopped after the last one was confiscated in Rome airport.

    Apart from the penknife, it all goes in the beautiful, compact, leather backpack that LOML bought me in Sardinia several years ago.

  12. Joel says:

    man bag/purse/murse/clutch/carry all/tote…whatever you want to call it, it goes with me…and has pills, flash light, scissors, lotion, change, smokes, lighters, blistex, mask, tums, and then i add my kindle…i also have my water bottle…both bottle and tote are used until worn out…than i get a new one…age of current tote-10 yrs

  13. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin A few observations. I’m not surprised Pete as a Kiwi is loath to shut doors. You do remember that NZ is one of the most seismically active countries in the world with something like 15,000 earthquakes/year —fortunately mostly small ones. That, of course, may also explain his aversion to bouncy castles.

    Secondly, I’m always intrigued how careful readers can tease out obscure, but meaningful titbits from your blog posts and tweets. Much like those who divine the state of North Korea by tracking Kim Jong-un’s weight fluctuations. Imagine my surprise then on seeing the word ‘recipe’ show up in this post. Here I had always assumed that your preferred gastronomic reading matter was a menu. Now that the cat is out of the bag, I presume you will share your best dishes with us or do you simply write down the recipe, tear out the page and hand it to Pete while looking suitably helpless (and hungry)?

    Speaking of a cat, I gather the elephant dung notebook is part of your present Faeces Phase, which also includes ultra posh Kopi Luwak coffee made from beans partially digested by Southeast Asian civets.

  14. Wild Edric says:

    Book (Peter Lovesey atm), umbrella, earbuds (Anker – for the money, excellent), ibuprofen, handkerchief & sunglasses (even for indoors)

  15. Keys are a kiwi thing. We’ve only relatively recently decided that taking them out of the car ignition when we get out is a good idea. Locking our houses seems like a terrible inconvenience, but it’s catching on.

  16. Jeanette says:

    Tea bags.

  17. Andre says:

    A Melitta pour-over coffee brewer and filters. I buy the beans when I get there. Nothing worse than bad nasty hotel coffee in the morning, or anytime. Or worse,no coffee at all.

  18. Paul+C says:

    A bottle opener obviously – trying to bite off beer bottle caps has ruined my teeth

  19. Roger Allen says:

    I have a Swiss Army knife attached to my key-ring. I’ve carried one for over fifty years, even if I only use it once a decade now.
    As a former snuff-taker I have a lot of bandannas and I’ve been using them for the first time for more than twenty years, as masks. In fact, I’ll be rather disappointed when I have to stop wearing them. I knew they’d come in handy one day.
    Unlike you, Admin, I favour shirts with large pockets with flaps and buttons for travelling. Where do you keep your pens and 2HB (that’s what you said, but is it right?) pencils handy if you don’t have shirt pockets?
    Like you, I have tinnitus, but I’m too deaf to like music any more, so I have a tinnitus masker for the ear that works.
    Books, of course. Several books, usually cheap paperbacks of great comic writers – Saki, Wodehouse, Runyon, Jerome. I have a very short attention span when travelling, so something I know and could probably not need to read at all to enjoy because I know them so well is what I want.
    And my latest innovation, a plastic bin-liner.

  20. Peter+T says:

    An essential item for carrying stuff is a waistcoat, or gilet in cooler weather, with three or more inside pockets. One pocket for pens and pencils, one for wallet and car documents, and one for phone and small notebook. The external pockets serve for small things.

  21. David says:

    Phone – acts as audio player, video player, book, notebook, map and travel guide, camera… oh… and phone
    Headphones – One over-ear for serous listening and one in-ear for casual
    Charging bank and cables – for the phone
    Anything else I am instructed to pack by she-who-knows-better!

  22. peter says:

    my mobile phone (sorry) if i cant make it to the end of my walk or if my car gives up the ghost a supermarket carrier bag and a bush hat in case it rains but mainly to annoy my other half who says i look like a flowerpot man and insists on walking in front of me so people do not think i am with her (small pleasures) best wishes Chris keep writing

  23. Stu-I-Am says:

    The International Institute for the Study of Stuff has confirmed what we’ve known all along. Stuff not only reproduces itself but transmutes into other stuff. For example, where you once may have had one charger, you now find that you now have a second which fits none of your present devices. To say nothing of those two and a half pairs of earbuds. It was also determined that none of this ‘stuffing,’ as it is called, occurs when stuff is in sight — much like the watched pot which supposedly never boils. The stuff boffins seem to think this may all have to do with previously unknown sub-atomic sleeper particles triggered by climate change or somehow via a conspiracy between manufacturers who make stuff and those who make bags to put stuff in. /s

    On a personal note, in my personal battle against the uncontrolled fission of stuff, I have reduced my wallet from the thickness and weight of a cricket ball to something resembling a slightly oversized rectangular water biscuit. It has a chip that allows me to make a purchase without swiping or tapping the credit card and also prevents electronic skimming of the card and others with a chip. Presumably it could also be used as a lethal weapon like Oddjob’s bowler.

  24. Liz+Thompson says:

    Pens – a bundle of them. Experience shows that if you only carry one or two, they will run out the instant you start to write something important. Paracetamol, migraine for the treatment of. Phone, in case which contains more paracetamol, credit/bankcards, Union card, and bus pass. Tissues, comb, scissors (all crafters have scissors with them). Diary (What do you mean, phones have diary app?), Two spare face masks. Notebook (rarely used, see Diary). Keys (usually in jeans pocket). Book (randomly chosen from huge backlog). And occasionally, knitting in progress.
    And a bloody big shoulder bag to put them all in.

  25. Stu-I-Am says:

    Speaking of bags to put stuff in (we were weren’t we ?), apparently handbag sales are up once again, having taken an expected nosedive during the early days of the pandemic — although now fighting off inroads made by backpacks and strange looking hybrid carriers. But there is also apparently a renewed interest by women for pockets, and deeper ones at that. It was always received knowledge for me, based on the ladies in my life, that pockets, by choice or fashion, were simply not comme il faut. That seems to have changed with the younger lasses in the family; pockets are now even showing up on wedding dresses. Historically, I’m told, women last got proper pockets back during WWII for practical reasons, but lost them to fashion again soon thereafter.

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